THE RISK OF LISTENING with Tao Wells
17/02/2012 - 17/02/2012
“Politics; a giant reality TV show. Don’t you think we need a theatre that shows us this?”
Using his actors to create the script by writing down every utterance or thought they have, Tao Wells collects their verbatim, slicing and dicing to create an entirely new script with alternating scenes. Only on the night of the performance do the actors come together to read this remixed version for the first time.
“I have taken the elements of theatre and shifted them slightly… The original notion of the arts doing a good deed in purging dangerous emotions from a populace is reversed. I uncover these emotions, but I ask the audience to take responsibility for them, till the wheels of the theatre fall off.” – Tao Wells
“This felt like art should, as an event and an experience. Immersive, alive, challenging… veering from hilarity to disbelief to other things. Unusual, and probably not for everyone..” – undulatingungulate.com
Tao Wells calls himself a Community Conceptualist, Conceptual Abstract Expressionist or A Public Relation Specialist (take your pick). More »
Friday 17 February: 9pm
DURATION: 120 minutes
VENUE: Lower NZI1, Aotea Centre
BOOKING: Book at THE EDGE
Fraudulent, unfocussed, unprofessional presentation = boredom
Review by Stephen Austin 18th Feb 2012
Here Are The Rules: Two groups of people gather and talk. Every utterance, thought and gesture is written down. Once they are finished they leave. The writer takes this text away and re-edits, adapts and remixes it all. On the night of performance, five performers (including the writer/projectionist) gather and read the script that has been created while it is projected on a screen for the audience to ponder. No prior rehearsal and the actors can play themselves as they see fit.
This sounds more interesting than it is. No effort is made to create a work that rises above its initial material. This is what it is, a polemic presented with no interest in the discourse itself and nothing grows from it. Actors arrive and come and go as they please; if they are not in the room when their lines are to be spoken, they simply are not said.
There are huge aching gaps of silence which we as audience fill with reading the script. Did I come here to read? I would have gone and downloaded an eBook if I wanted to do that. Other times there is unrelenting political diatribe thrown back and forth between performers. Did I come here to listen to an un-edited political opinion? I would switch on RNZ or the National Programme for that.
The only attempt at theatrical device comes between scenes. The laptop that is projected from is closed, the lights fade, the doors to the space are opened and light pours through them. Upon the first reading (yes, this 113 page script is attempted TWICE!) this feels like the performers and audience are being invited in. As time progresses, it becomes an invitation for audience to leave if they wish; which about three quarters of the crowd take advantage of.
Performances range from the lacklustre to full-blown OTT. Those reading the script seem just as lost as the audience as to whether this is all going somewhere. Indeed one actor arrives late and leaves early, presumably out of complete disinterest in the work.
The most telling moment comes when writer Tao Wells (who has been silently projecting the script, not even reading his own lines) stands less than mid-way through the second reading of the script and declares “Alright, I give up, you win, The End!” So this was a battle fought between writer and audience? We were given no method to engage the work at the outset, why should we signify satisfaction if there is no catharsis for us?
I find myself not offended by the material, as much of the publicity has promised, but affronted that I am so bored and unsatisfied by this fraudulent, unfocussed, unprofessional presentation and a complete lack of audience-performer contract even hinted at.
Wells claims that he is “doing a good deed in purging dangerous emotions…” and that he wants “the audience to take responsibility for them, till the wheels of the theatre fall off.” A little difficult to achieve if the car has already been jacked-up and the wheels and stereo have been stripped out and sold to keep the driver fed.
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